Kids' rooms are often a chaos of clothing, colors and craft items. Parents strive to keep some sense of order in their little ones' rooms, often experiencing aggravation when youngsters don't follow cleanup directions. One way to reduce the struggle, and give kids an organized, clean living space where they can play in peace, is to create a new organizing plan for the room's biggest opportunity for order: the closet.
Robert Guerin, owner of the professional closet design company Hang It Up Closets, says that "when a child grows up in an organized, neat room, good skills are developed for later in life."
As kids learn their new organizing system, they're also learning their colors, matching items and thinking about item function -- lessons that may help them in school and stick with them to create a foundation of order in their adult lives. Right now, their belongings will find easily accessed storage spots and bins in that closet, getting all of the clutter off the floor, desks and dressers. Kids will also get pride of accomplishment when they clean their rooms more easily -- and enjoy the perk of praise from you.
A key to organizing kids' closets is formulating a plan that can be easily and inexpensively adjusted as they grow. "There's a big difference between baby hangers, kids' toys and a teenager's more grown-up collections," says Guerin. You need "closets designed to grow and adjust for your child's changing needs."
At the start, decide if you want to hire a professional closet organizer to construct the ideal layout of bars for hanging clothes, floor-to-ceiling cubbies and higher shelving features. An expert knows exactly how to take a small closet and maximize the storage space within, using perfectly measured shelves, bins and other features. When two or more children are sharing one closet, the expert can create sectors for each.
Or you might wish to tackle your closet organizing plan on your own, using these five top suggestions:
--Start by pulling everything out. Have four bins nearby, marked "Current," "Donate," "Hand-Me-Downs" and "Trash."
"Current" is for clothing, shoes, accessories, toys and other items the child uses now. "Donate" is for items to be donated to a charity. "Hand-Me-Downs" is for outgrown items that can be offered to siblings or friends' children. And, of course, trash is for ripped, stained and otherwise unwearable items, broken toys, and other discardables. If items can be recycled, have a bin for those, as well.
With an entirely empty space before you, and items in their bins, thoroughly clean the closet walls, ceilings and floor, and consider painting the closet interior. Kids can help choose their desired color, and stencils and wall clings can add a fun, decorative flair to parts of the wall visible beneath hanging clothes or on the side walls.
--Install double bars for kids' clothes, set low enough for your child to be able to hang his or her own clothing. Since kids' clothing is short and thin, hang one rod higher and further back in the closet, with the second rod lower and toward the front. Kids can then hang up their clothes with more space between each item, for easier viewing -- or your older child can claim the back bar, while your smaller child gets the front bar. Spring tension rods can be used for narrow closets, so you don't need to drill holes and screw in the bars. As kids age, the tension bars can be raised to the heights needed.
Make hanging up clothing easier and more fun for kids by investing in colorful plastic hangers. As a rainy day project, kids can affix small stickers of their choice to the center point of the hanger just below the hook. This gives kids ownership of their hanger collection, which may inspire better use of them.
--Set colorful fabric bins on the closet floor, such as bright pinks or apple greens, with pictures on the front for pre-readers or large letter identification labels for older kids. These labels identify what's to be placed in these lidless bins. Laundry is more easily deposited, especially when you teach kids to stand a few feet away and score "baskets" with their dirty socks and shirts. Another bin might be for stuffed animals, giving beloved teddy bear collections a cozy home "where they can all be together." When storage bins have lids, kids are less likely to take the extra step of pulling out the bin, opening a snap top and closing it again. The open-top of a fabric bin inspires more use.
--Plan tall enough shelves in built-ins. Meryl Starr, professional organizer and author of "The Organizing Workbook," suggests shelving heights that allow for a 6- to 12-inch pile of folded clothes to still have room on top for airier storage that cuts down on any mold or mildew. When cubbies or shelves have room on top, it's easier for kids to retrieve the shirt they want without the entire pile of shirts falling to the floor (and staying there).
--Use hanging organizers for smaller items. A hanging fabric shoe rack can be used for shoes and also for kids' little purses and dress-up items like tiaras. A hanging travel organizer intended for toiletries can hold jewelry, craft items, small toys and other tiny things.
When organizing bins and items are colorful and inviting, offering easy access, kids will use them. And on those days when kids are resistant to stowing the teddy bears in their bin, it's very easy for you to deposit them there and call it a day.